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Thu Apr 24 10:28:04 SAST 2014

Irish poach SA rugby talent

Craig Ray | 27 June, 2012 17:510 Comments
2012 SupeRugbY: DHL Stormers training and press conference
Quinn Roux during a Stormers training session at Newlands on June 27, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa
Image by: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images

IRISH rugby is attempting to bolster its long-term prospects by signing young, uncapped South Africans to its four provinces with a view to these players qualifying in time for the 2015 World Cup.

on Wednesday it emerged that promising 21-year-old Stormers lock Quinn Roux had signed a one-year deal with Leinster only a week after former SA under-20 captain CJ Stander completed a two-year deal with Munster.

The Stormers also confirmed that wing Danie Poolman was on his way to Connacht to complete a trio of quality signings for the Irish in less than seven days.

The four major Irish provinces have signed three promising South Africans all between the ages of 20-23 just three years before the World Cup.

While the Irish Rugby Football Union’s (IRFU) official policy favours home grown players, the unions are targeting young foreign players, who can become naturalised Irish citizens in three years.

The reason the Irish provinces are so keen to sign non-test players is simple. As from the 2013/14 season Ireland’s big three provinces – Ulster, Munster and Leinster – can only field one foreign player per position across the three unions. For instance, if Ulster pick Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, then Munster and Leinster have to field an Irish halfback. Connacht, as the weakest province, is exempt from this rule for now.

The idea is that the three provinces can recruit foreigners, but will have to agree to sign players in different positions so they don’t overlap. In the short-term it will hurt, but if the Irish provinces sign cleverly, they can circumnavigate the rule in the medium term by qualifying several youngsters as Irish citizens.

Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss – a former SA under-19 World Cup winner – will be eligible to play for Ireland later this year and could well come up against the Springboks in Dublin on November 10. There is already talk of Strauss making the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013.

Roux, Stander and Poolman, won’t be eligible for Ireland until 2015, just in time for the World Cup, if they play in Ireland for three years.

These players realised that their immediate provincial prospects at the Bulls and Stormers were slim, and therefore so are their international hopes. They have more chance of making a career in Ireland.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee pointed out that Roux had only signed at Leinster for one year, and was returning to Cape Town after the northern hemisphere season next May. But even if Roux does return to the Stormers, it doesn’t mean he will give up on his Irish dream.

If Leinster like what they see after a year and the IRFU makes the right promises to Roux about playing for Ireland in the future, he could sign on for a further two years. The same would apply to Stander and Poolman.

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